- Oct 22, 2013
Hear, hear, hear! More of this. I couldn’t agree more.
Rita Baker | Director
Lydbury English Centre Ltd
Hi Denis and others,
I've missed some of the context of this discussion but this dialog is familiar. In the 80s I applied for a job teaching with Oxfam in Gaza. I went out to Oxford to talk to the people there. In the interview I was asked about whether or not teachers should overtly attempt to influence local politics and I said "No. Mind your own business." The argument turned into a political argument and I didn't get the job. Later, in Egypt, I met someone from Gaza and told him about it. He said he knew this group of British teachers in Gaza and that locals viewed them as agitators with their own political agenda.
I agree with Denis that all of this falls well within the realms of "critical thinking" where we construct criticality as simply a search for truth. This is foundational to a liberal education which is primarily constructed to support democratic society, not to support job readiness. There is a hierarchy of interests here, jobs are not to be subordinated to liberty - arbeit macht nicht frei.
Education that is not critical is not education, and it does not matter what you are teaching. Criticality is not to support this political party or group, or this or that agenda, it is simply to empower a socially responsible citizenry to discharge their collective responsibility toward self-rule. We find challenges to criticality coming from authoritarian political cultures on both left and right. It is the challenges to criticality, not its practice, that is politically motivated.
In terms of language teaching, I think that it is very difficult to teach a competency based curriculum - as dogme describes - without a strong dose of criticality. If we remove this, we get only rules and their previously documented applications, words and their recorded meanings, scripted, canned thought and meaninglessness leading to exams.
On Tue, Oct 22, 2013, at 12:56 AM, Dennis Newson wrote:
Dear NMW (Sorry if I overlooked your first name),
Thanks very much for responding.
To answer your questions.
·To what extent can teachers allow individual priorities and preferences to influence their responsibilities to their students?
I don't think I expressed myself clearly enough. When I write about my individual priorities and preferences, whether using those actual words or not, I am wholly focused on my responsibilities towards my students. "My" here = 'My view of the teacher's responsibilities', if you like.
·To what extent, in a liberal democracy, are teachers at liberty to introduce a programme of education that is critical of the status quo and supportive of a particular political point of view that is in conflict with the elected government of that country?
Oh. You appear to have far more faith in electoral processes even in liberal democracies than I do. In so many countries such a low percentage of people vote that the winners represent a minority of the given country's population. "The majority view" is actually, at best, the view of the minority.
Personally, I feel it is the duty of teachers, especially teachers of the young, to teach in the light of their moral convictions. Ultimately I find it hard to trust any politician. By definition for me they are interested in power and strategies for obtaining and maintaining power.
·To what extent is ‘content’ – in this (my) case, English as a foreign language, apolitical?
All content is chosen and all choices, unltimately, imply a philosophical, ideological, political allegiance. There is no such thing as impartiality - no 'a'view.
·If, as many believe, it is not possible to have a value-neutral education then who – the teacher or the students – should be allowed to set the agenda for the politicization of the material they study and discuss?
I don't believe teachers necessarily "politicize" content. I suppose political parties politicize the content and some teachers see it as a moral duty to train their pupils to read all texts attentively and analytically.
·Should teachers be allowed to carry through their plans and visions if the latter are of an explicitly political nature?
:-) Of course you are using "political nature" to mean here something like "An ideology that I, personally, oppose."
I find your practice of presenting your learners with differing points of views on chosen topics allowing them to come to their own individual conclusions admirable and I would take it as accepted that in training critical thinking it must be standard procedure to examine a range of views, not just one.
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